(aka, why NYC needs you, elected NYC Councilmembers, to send this “plan” back to the drawing board for a more thoughtfully developed proposal which guarantees truly affordable housing and will also vigorously protect every unit of already existing, long-term, deeply affordable housing in all its forms which exists in Lower Manhattan.)
December 9, 2021
To the Members of the City Council of New York,
Please vote “no” on the Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone SoHo NoHo and then please advise DCP to revise its purposefully vague plan to include, as top priority, specific protection against the displacement of over a thousand New Yorkers, many elderly, who reside in Lower Manhattan’s already existing deeply affordable units. There are almost 700 such units in SoHo and NoHo in almost 200 still-viable structures which will be threatened with a rezoning: we must protect these vulnerable New Yorkers above all.
As a former stabilized renter in SoHo and as a lifelong New York City renter, I ask all of you for a nuanced consideration of this flawed rezoning proposal and to acknowledge New York City Planning failed on its pledged deliverables of the Envision SoHo NoHo plan and process. The DCP has not done its job with its rushed and remote ULURP process, its conditional exclusion of public input and its repeatedly expressed obvious bias for real estate development interests.
This gratuitous and ruinous rezoning is defiantly being held up by its proponents as an opportunity for “equity” and “housing justice,” but there is neither “justice” nor “equity” for the vulnerable, mostly elderly, renters of SoHo, NoHo and the adjoining areas of Chinatown and Lower Manhattan who will lose their homes because of the zoning adjustment.
There is also no justice for the middle-income property owners, the artists of SoHo and NoHo, who, after working with the City decades ago to devise a form of affordable homeownership in repurposed industrial spaces so to ultimately age in place, will now no longer be able to afford to pay property taxes on the units they fashioned with their own hands back in the 1970s. Why is there no special consideration for these New Yorkers? They deserve to stay in their homes: as a city, we owe this to any threatened resident but most especially to this population who literally developed a globally adored tourist destination and now our collective payment to these people is to kick them all out.
It is disturbing what will happen to these elderly NYC residents, who have long been productive and industrious citizens: it is cruel, dishonest and dystopian.
The Envision SoHo NoHo process did not invite many of these constituents yet did, oddly, heavily involve real estate development lobbying group Open New York from its inception: Open New York, a pro-development group which has bragged about being the architects of the SoHo NoHo rezoning were considered by DCP to be valuable stakeholders, despite the glaring fact that none of them live in the area and despite the fact that their interests are purely about new development, not about consideration of existing housing or the value of the lives and experiences of the tenants who live in them.
The DCP-led ULURP public engagement hearings were held via Zoom while a global pandemic raged; the first of these meetings was in October 2020. I had signed up to speak but was number 354 to have make such a request and was thus not called upon as the session was deliberately limited to two and half hours: 365 people had signed up to speak that evening and DCP allowed for less than 10% of them to have had any voice.
How is that legal, NYC Council Members? How is it legal, in any way, to limit public engagement during a (wait for it) public engagement session?
DCP assigned the role of rezoning Senior Planner to Sylvia Li who referred to both the residents and structures of SoHo NoHo as “relics,” often and readily admitted she did not understand loft laws or other Lower Manhattan anomalies while also displaying an uncomfortable favoritism towards real estate development lobbying group Open New York. The entire process was a sham: right in front of the eyes of the rest of us.
You are our elected representatives: DCP doesn’t listen to us, so please be our voice and send this inadequate rezoning back to the Planning drawing board; this is not a vote to stop all development, it is instead a demand for better development from DCP, not their current lazy effort as this thoughtless initiative which will solely benefit the worst type of developers and create the least affordable and barely livable housing.
Please vote “no.”